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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Method for Cutting Food

As a result of my own experiences and those of other blind people I have talked to about this topic, I realized a long time ago that many blind people are quite anxious about going to a restaurant with sighted people, especially if the blind people order food that must be cut. Some blind people have remarked that they avoid the situation entirely; others go to the restaurant but make a special effort to order a sandwich or some other meal that does not include food that needs to be cut.

My father taught me this method for cutting food. It works particularly well on boneless meats, baked potatoes and certain desserts like individual pieces of cake—not so well with bone-in meats, loaves of bread or large desserts like entire pies or cakes. Since it does require you to touch your food, you may choose not to use it when eating particularly messy foods like meat covered in sauce.

Before attempting to cut your food, examine it with one hand enough to know the size of what you are cutting. Once you’ve done this, then you can decide if you want to try to cut the food into small pieces, one or two at a time, or if you want to cut the item in half and proceed from there. Regardless of what decision you make, the method remains the same.

Hold the fork straight up and down in your left hand. The handle faces you. Place the fork in the portion of the food where you want to start cutting. You will determine that based upon the size of the piece you wish to cut. Put the knife in your right hand; hold it sideways with the blade facing down. While keeping your left hand near to but slightly above the place where the fork’s prongs meet the rest of the utensil, insert the point of the knife into the space between two of the fork’s prongs. Where you place the knife also depends upon the size of the piece you are cutting though the process does seem to work better if you place the knife between the prongs closer to the middle of the fork rather than on one of the ends as it keeps both utensils more stable.

Slowly lower the knife, allowing the blade to touch the food. Press down and move the knife back and forth while keeping it in its place between the prongs of the fork. The advantages of this method are many. The food you are cutting is held in place by the fork so you should not end up dropping it on your lap. Since the knife is placed between the fork’s prongs, it can be used safely; you are not touching the blade at all.

As you complete your first cut, you will feel the piece separating from the larger piece of food. Knowing exactly when the cut is complete will take practice. You may find that, at times, the cut is nearly complete but that the piece is barely hanging on to the larger piece of food. In that case, a few more strokes should finish the job.

If you are not particularly comfortable with knives or if you just want to start with something fairly easy to cut, you might try cutting a banana. While cutting a banana is nothing like the challenge of cutting a rib eye steak, cutting that banana will teach you the method, letting you perfect it and giving you confidence to try something tougher like a boneless pork chop or a baked potato.

I am right-handed; if you are left-handed, you may find that you will want to hold the utensils in opposite hands, the fork in the right and the knife in the left. This change notwithstanding, the remainder of the process is the same.

This is not to say that you cannot, when ordering a steak, ask the restaurant employees to cut it before bringing it to you; I have done this at times as have other blind friends. Nevertheless, the goal is to handle this task independently; hopefully this technique will help you. If you use a different technique that works particularly well for you, please share with other readers by leaving a comment.

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